We all know that every student is unique and that the diverse learning needs for each are equally unique. Within a very short time, teachers are able to make a decision on how to begin working with a particular student. It’s a big step to determine whether to begin with basics, IE, breathing, tonguing, flexibility, tone, etc or to begin with musical ideas and to allow those musical thoughts to lead the body in finding the best solutions. There are many truly great teachers who specialize in the physical and acoustical aspects of playing a brass instrument and we have great teachers that encourage musicality to motivate the path to a successful result. Most teachers are skillful in following both of those pedagogical pathways, in other words ‘whatever works’.
During the time I held full-time positions in several music conservatories, I had the pleasure and advantage of meeting with my students once a week, sometimes for several years. With that frequency of lessons, a bonding with the student occurs and both student and teacher concurrently create a direction and a vision of the musical goals, whether for competitions, exams, auditions or simply growing toward becoming as good as possible. This kind of teaching is a luxury.
A personal luxury I’ve enjoyed for the last five years has been traveling to a number of countries in the world and to teach both private, (one-to-one), lessons and to present masterclasses. This is both fulfilling and frustrating. It’s an adventure to meet a student for the first time, listen to him or her play, determine what requires the most attention and start a procedure, which hopefully will offer a goal in the student's performance, … but then what? We say goodbye and perhaps we see each other again the next year or sadly, maybe never again, that’s the frustrating part.
It’s a good feeling when we hear a noticeable improvement in a short period of time, with a richer tone by using more air, or when a solo becomes more interesting by making small adjustments in articulation or dynamics. The real fulfillment, however, comes when hearing the same student a year later sounding much better. Of course, this is the result that the student, with the guidance of his or her teacher, had been working through the year. If my short moment with that student twelve months before helped that growth, it makes me very happy.
Among these‘number of places’, where I’ve had the pleasure to teach in the last five years, has been a yearly winter tour to Japan. I’m very happy to say that within a few weeks I will be in Japan again. The performance level in Japan and all the Asian countries in the last decade has been phenomenal, which is becoming increasingly evident both by hearing it in real time, and by observing the number of finalists we see in competitions and auditions.
After the three weeks in Japan, I will proceed to Thailand and participate with Steve Rosse and Anne Jelle Visser in the annual TUBA MANIA Festival that takes place on a barge cruising on the River Kwai. This event has attracted students, not only from all of Asia but also from Europe and North America. Aside from an extraordinary learning experience … IT’S FUN!
I’m grateful to the Eastman Music Company for their help in making this Asian tour possible.
December 17, 2018, Oaxaca, Mexico.